MiB: Bruce Van Saun, Citizens Financial

This week, we speak with Bruce Van Saun, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Citizens Financial Group. CFG is the bank that (among other things) finances most iPhone purchases or monthly leases and has grown into the 12th largest bank in America. He was named American Banker’s 2019 “Banker of the Year,” and sits on the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Board; previously he was on the Boston Fed Bank Advisory Council.

Van Saun was at Royal Bank of Scotland until January 2008, where he helped spin out Citizens Financial Group from RBS in 2014. He explains why it was so unusual — and a huge advantage — to IPO the bank versus what is more typical transaction like a sale or spinoff. It was a shakeup to the prior bank culture, and much more entrepreneurial. It also allowed Van Saun to recruit the sort of bankers that might not be attracted to a sleepy foreign-owned (and scandal mired) bank.

Citizens Financial Group commercial clients are middle market companies whose revenues run from $25-500 million, and and mid-corporate $500 million to 3 billion in revenues. He also served on the board of Moody’s, and helped to settle outstanding claims against the firm, rehabilitate the company post-crisis. Previously, he was on the board of Lloyds of London.

We also discuss early days of his career working at Bank of New York Mellon in 1997, which was located at 1 Wall Street — right across from the World Trade Center. 9/11 knocked out their data center and home office, leading them to work with IBM to create a duplicate center in Tennessee. Today, banks are much more resilient, with all major banks running fully redundant backups, and much of their data also resided in the cloud.

His favorite books can be seen here; A transcript of our conversation is available here.

You can stream/download the full conversation, including the podcast extras on Apple iTunes, Overcast, Spotify, Google, Bloomberg, and Stitcher. All of our earlier podcasts on your favorite pod hosts can be found here.

Next week, we speak with Brian Kelly, better known as The Points Guy. Kelly took an interest in credit card and airline points, and turned it into a substantial media business, with 60 employees. The Points Guy website now garners 7 million unique visitors a month.



Bruce Van Zaun’s Favorite Books

The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale

Elephant Company: The Inspiring Story of an Unlikely Hero and the Animals Who Helped Him Save Lives in World War II by Vicki Croke

Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan Boxed Set by Tom Clancy

Run Away by Harlan Coben


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